“How do I get to know my son better?”
“How can I build a better relationship with my son and fight less?”
“My son is so quiet, he’s a closed book! How can I get him to let me into his world?”
These are questions nationally acclaimed child psychology expert Anthony Rao hears from parents all the time. Parents of young boys see (and feel) it – being on the outside and not getting the full story.
Ironically, many parents’ struggles come from being too involved in their son’s lives – to the point of being shut out.
Consider the following scenario: A boy brings home a particularly low scoring math test for his parents to sign. A common reaction from parents might be feeling unnerved about the unusual grade and beginning the hunt for a local math tutor. More relaxed parents might talk to their son, ask questions, and uncover that their son was particularly stressed that week because of a big project in another class.
With a “less is more” approach, you can take a step back. Your son is empowered to share more about his world, and you relax as a parent and don’t get as worked up about the small details.
While there is no magic solution to improving your relationship with your son overnight, there is one simple principle that will completely change your family dynamic (for the better): be a better leader in your family.
How to be a better family leader
“Being a better leader in your family” means focusing on consistency, staying organized, and ultimately making sure no one else is disorganized or frenetic. Just think about getting your son out of the door to school in the morning – how does this look? Is it a mad scramble to find shoes and a lecture over “why we need to wear a jacket?” Or is it a smooth and seamless transition?
1. Don’t be afraid to be tough (when you need to be). Expect boys to test any and all boundaries you set. Once they understand where the boundaries lie and what the consequences are for crossing the line, they will be more comfortable, less aggressive, and overall much happier.
2. Control the stimulation level in your house. “Stimulation” can come in many forms, from how bright the lights are, to leaving the TV on in the background during dinner. We are living in a sea of information and technology, and the more you can control the “unnecessary” stimulation, the more relaxed and comfortable your boy can be.
3. Position yourself as a learner. When you want to know more about what’s going on in your son’s life, it’s much more effective to position yourself from the perspective of a learner. The best leaders don’t show off what they know or have to prove they are powerful. Oftentimes the person who’s quieter and listening is more powerful. Think of yourself as a psychologist – asking questions, trying to understand, and empathize with how they are feeling.